ONE MORE week, one more chance.
And not because he's earned it.
Having lost the faith of a significant portion of the Raiders fan base, as well as a few teammates and coaches, JaMarcus Russell needed only 24 minutes Sunday to fumble his previously firm status as starting quarterback.
A little more than nine minutes into the second quarter of a 38-0 thumping by the New York Jets, played before a sparse congregation at the Oakland Coliseum, Raiders coach Tom Cable relieved Russell of the job he has held since December 2007.
Understand, there was enough embarrassment to mortify everyone drawing a Raiders paycheck, from owner/general manager Al Davis and the coaching staff, to the players and the video specialists.
"I don't think we could have beaten an Oakland high school team today," summarized defensive lineman Richard Seymour.
But this blaze was lit by Russell. In the midst of one of the sorriest seasons in NFL history, he submitted a microcosm of his worst work so far.
Sacked on the first offensive play of the game, he fumbled the ball to the Jets, who recovered at the Oakland 4-yard line and scored less than two minutes later.
After failing to achieve a first down on their second possession, the Raiders' third possession ended when a horrible Russell pass was intercepted by Jets safety Jim Leonhard, who returned the ball 44 yards to the Oakland 4, setting up New York's second touchdown.
"No reason for that," Cable said of the throw.
Two Russell turnovers, resulting in two Jets touchdowns, requiring a total of 8 offensive yards equaled a demoralized bunch of Raiders.
"We can't spot teams 14 points," running back Justin Fargas conceded.
Russell took the field again, whereupon he was hit with a stream of disapproval so chunky it was almost visible. He responded by floating a pass toward Todd Watkins at the goal line. As Watkins waited for the ball to drop into his hands, Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis soared over the top to pick it off.
"He just kind of threw it up," Cable said.
Russell attempted two more passes — a 4-yard completion to rookie wideout Darius Heyward-Bey and an ill-advised incompletion that was perilously close to becoming his third interception in 11 throws — and got the hook.
Russell had to go. The ever-dwindling core of die-hards, allegedly 39,354 Sunday, had disowned him. Teammates on defense surely had seen enough; they trailed by 21, mostly because of Russell.
"We started the game in a hole," Seymour said. "That's not the way we play."
Cable threw up his hands ... and told backup Bruce Gradkowski to get ready, which brings us back to why Russell should start next Sunday at San Diego.
The alternative is Gradkowski, a journeyman who plays with high energy if not solid efficiency. A poor man's Jeff Garcia, if you will.
Gradkowski's entrance drew cheers not because it promised a shower of touchdowns or consistent offense but because he was not Russell. Though G-man's numbers (10-of-19 for 97 yards, no touchdowns or interceptions) were better than those of J-Russ (6-of-11, 61, zero and two), that in no way implies Gradkowski is the solution to the quarterback problem.
And, no, it's not third-stringer Charlie Frye, either.
Cable knows that, saying afterward that Al's man JaMarcus remains the starter.
Yet Russell has been so bad that Cable and even Davis have to consider Gradkowski or Frye, if not Garcia or 41-year-old Jeff George.
But not now. The Chargers are next, on the road, where any taunts will come from the enemy. Put it on Russell. See how he responds to this medium-decibel wake-up call.
Should that fail, open the competition. After San Diego is the bye week, and after the bye is a visit from Kansas City. That's two weeks to prepare for a team the Raiders know they can beat.
Does Cable have the, um, stones to do this? Sounds as if he might.
Until it's proved that Davis ordered the change, I'll believe Cable pulled Russell. It's a move deserving of props, suggesting there is independent thought at least on Sundays.
We know the commitment is to Russell. Davis identified him as the franchise quarterback, drafted him No. 1 overall and pays him a magnificent sum.
But if Cable is chasing wins rather than developing Russell for another coach, he has to see what else he has or can get. The attitude and effort of a team may be at stake.
Contact Monte Poole at firstname.lastname@example.org.